I must admit I had certain misplaced stereotypes about Oregon. When I accepted an invitation to the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville last July, I expected to be the only man in attendance not sporting a red plaid shirt and an untrimmed beard. "Should I pack sandals?" I asked my wife. We agreed that sandals would be too much of a clash with my conservative blue blazer, but I did slip a Grateful Dead box set into my briefcase.
On Saturday morning I began to wander around and suss out the vibe. Yep, there were a few pairs of Birkenstocks and even a lumberjack beard or two. I popped into the conference room as biodynamicist winemaker Lalou Bize-Leroy, from Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, was explaining why she picks her grapes under a full moon.
At this point, I wandered over to a table and began to taste some Oregon Pinot Noirs. Suddenly, it didn't matter whether the vines has been blessed by Druids or the grapes had been harvested at the autumnal equinox. The results were here, in the glass, and they were pretty stunning. Here are three of my Oregonian discoveries. I've already booked for next year.
SOKOL BLOSSER 1998, OLD VINEYARD BLOCK ($65)
Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser were oenological pioneers in the Willamette Valley, arriving from Portland in 1971. By 1977 they were producing some of Oregon's first commercial wines, helping set the state's new industry in motion. Sokol Blosser became a very successful mainstream winery, but recently, noting the growing interest in Pinot Noir among American wine drinkers, decided to go for the gold with a new portfolio of high-end vineyard-designated Pinots. This is one of them.